131 lawmakers back revival of peace talks with Reds

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 20 2019 05:03 PM

This photo taken on July 30, 2017 shows guerrillas of the New People's Army (NPA) in formation in the Sierra Madre mountain range, located east of Manila. Noel Celis, AFP/File

MANILA — A total of 131 members of the House of Representatives have filed a multi-partisan resolution calling for the immediate resumption of peace negotiations between the government and communist rebels. 

House Resolution No. 636 "is a strong message of support from the members of the House in pursuing the peace process as a way of ending the root causes of the more than 5-decade armed rebellion," said House Deputy Minority Leader Carlos Isagani Zarate. 

Among those who signed the document were Deputy Speakers Neptali Gonzales II, Luis Raymond Villafuerte Jr., Loren Legarda, Evelina Escudero, Johnny Pimentel, Eduardo Villanueva and Michael Romero. 

The peace talks' revival also received the backing of Minority Leader Bienvenido Abante, Deputy Minority Leader Jose Christopher Belmonte, and the majority bloc's Representatives Maria Laarni Cayetano, Joey Sarte Salceda, Antonio Albano, Elpidio Barzaga Jr. and Rufus Rodriguez, among others. 

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier said he was open to restarting peace talks with the rebels. 

Zarate, representative of left-leaning Bayan Muna Party-list, said he hoped the negotiations would resume "without preconditions." 

The lawmaker also claimed that "peace saboteurs" like National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon were derailing the negotiations by "setting preconditions to the talks and issuing absurd militarist statements." 

Esperon this week alleged that communist rebels have a "hit list" that supposedly included him and President Rodrigo Duterte. 

The Communist Party of the Philippines said its armed wing, the New People's Army, "keeps no hit list."

The peace talks could resume in January after the 2 sides iron out several "goodwill measures," former chief negotiator Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello earlier said. 

Peace talks between the government and communist rebels deteriorated in 2017 due to alleged continuing rebel attacks on state troops. In November that year, the President signed a proclamation declaring the termination of peace negotiations. 

A resumption of the peace talks was scheduled in late June last year but it was canceled as the government sought to review all agreements the communists signed with past administrations.

In December 2018, Duterte ordered the creation of a national task force to “end local communist armed conflict.”

The government also sought the declaration of the communist movement as a terrorist group. 

- With a report from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News